GOALS in the opening quarter of an hour from Reece Connolly and Liam Roberts earned impressive Badshot Lea a richly-deserved win in west London on Saturday.
Lea’s flying start, appropriately enough on a ground which lies directly beneath the Heathrow flight path, set the tone for what could so easily have been a much more convincing margin of victory in a game where three players saw red.
Only a missed penalty from the otherwise excellent Mac Ford and a stunning volley from distance in stoppage time from Hounslow centre back Barry MacWilliam prevented a much more realistic scoreline.
“It would have been nice to keep a clean sheet but you can’t do anything about a goal like that,” said Lea boss Gavin Smith after MacWilliam’s late wonder strike. “We probably should have had more. It would have been nice to have had a more comfortable win – 2-1 makes it look tight but it wasn’t.”
Make no mistake, Hounslow were hugely flattered by the 2-1 scoreline as Lea ended a run of three straight defeats in fine style.
The only downside was an early injury to big striker Connolly and red cards for substitute Cameron Blackie and centre half Liam Flanighan.
Blackie, who was a worthy replacement for Connolly as he made a nuisance of himself in the middle of the park, picked up a needless second yellow after failing to retreat ten yards at a Hounslow free kick on 64 minutes while Liam Flanighan was given a straight red after a melee four minutes from time in which Hounslow also had a man sent off.
“It was pleasing because the lads worked really hard,” said Smith. “And then after going down to 10 they all put in a bit extra to stay in the lead. I really never thought they would score, but the goal they did score was unbelievable, it was like something you see on telly!
“They (Hounslow) have been struggling a little bit and had a few people out but you still have to beat what’s in front of you, and it’s so easy to drop your levels sometimes if you think the opposition are inferior to you. Sometimes you can drop your standards but we didn’t. I thought we raised them a bit and played some good football.”
Lea opened the scoring on seven minutes after Ford, Stacey Thripp and Connolly, who pulled his hamstring just moments earlier, had combined well to force Hounslow keeper Kavanagh Keadell to make a smart save, and it was Connolly who was left unmarked at the back stick to volley home Ryan Bell’s fine corner.
Nine minutes later it was 2-0 as Ford stepped over a free-kick on the edge of the box and Roberts did the rest, beating Keadell low to his left.
With Ford, Jack May, Thripp and Blackie linking up well and the back four rock solid ahead of skipper Jordan Clement, Lea were totally in the ascendancy and had a golden opportunity to put the game beyond Hounslow six minutes into the second half.
Keadell played himself into trouble and brought down the lively Ford in the box, but the inventive forward fluffed his lines from 12 yards with a weak penalty low to the keeper’s left.
But it failed to take the gloss off his or his side’s day.
“Reece got injured and we ended up playing Mac up front and it really suited him. He made some good runs and linked up well. He’s a better playing going further forward and he’s got that little bit of invention,” said a satisfied Smith.
On a day when Lea kicked off in 17th place and behind Hounslow on goal difference, they ended it in 14th and six points ahead of their rivals after the Londoners were deducted three points by the league over a registration issue.
And now they face a key run of four games in 14 days which could define their season, starting on Saturday with a trip to Redhill before games against three teams who all lie below Lea in the table – at home to Hanworth Villa (March 2) and AFC Hayes (March 9) and a rearranged game at Balham (March 6).
Of Saturday’s trip to Redhill, Smith said: “Hopefully it will be more of the same (as Hounslow). If we turn up and apply ourselves, I don’t see why not.”
Badshot Lea: Clement, Pound, Roberts, Flanighan, Bonsu, Lloyd, Bell, Ford (Atkinson 88), May, Connolly (Blackie 8), Thripp. Subs (not used): Smith.